Thursday, February 18, 2021

Viking romances and Otago stargazing: an interview with RWR McDonald

Kia ora and haere mai, welcome to the weekly instalment of our 9mm interview series for 2021 - we're back on a regular track now after almost a year's hiatus. 

This author interview series has now been running for over a decade (though perhaps we shouldn't really count the last year), and today marks the 219th overall edition. Thanks for reading over the years. I've had tonnes of fun chatting to some amazing writers and bringing their thoughts and stories to you. 

My plan is to to publish 40-50 new author interviews in the 9mm series this year. You can check out the full list of of past interviewees here. Some amazing writers.

If you've got a favourite crime writer who hasn't yet been featured, let me know in the comments or by sending me a message, and I'll look to make that happen for you. Even as things with this blog may evolve moving forward, I'll continue to interview crime writers and review crime novels.

Today I'm very pleased to welcome RWR McDonald, an author whose marvellous debut THE NANCYS provoked me to use the word 'exuberant' in a crime novel review, for the first time ever (out of many, many hundreds of reviews I've written). THE NANCYS was an absolute delight of a read, or as I said back in 2019, "a charming mystery that is much more than charm, packed with lovably unruly characters and chaotic events and perfectly seasoned with humour and heart". 

McDonald grew up in rural Otago, a province in the south of the South Island of New Zealand, and now lives in Melbourne, Australia "with his two daughters and an extended rainbow family including HarryCat and Stevie Nicks the chicken". He worked on THE NANCYS as part of the Faber Writing Academy, and the unpublished manuscript was Highly Commended at the 2017 Victorian Premier's Literary Awards. When McDonald's debut crime novel was published in 2019 it got plenty of acclaim Downunder, flying off the shelves and earning lots of great reviews. Last year it was shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Awards and won the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best First Novel. 

THE NANCYS is a terrific read and I'm hoping publishers in the UK and elsewhere will pick it up so that an even broader audience can enjoy this absolutely delightful Kiwi mystery. I'm very excited about the sequel, THE NANCY BUSINESS, which is out in Australia and New Zealand in June this year. 

But for now, RWR McDonald becomes the latest author to stare down the barrel of 9mm. 


1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero?
There are so many! I am going to do a shout out to Sarah Bailey’s Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock. So excellently flawed, I am in awe of Sarah Bailey’s writing talent to create such a complex character, as well as a trilogy and compelling police procedurals – I would also like DS Woodstock on the case if I’m ever murdered.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
There were so many, A LION IN THE MEADOW by Margaret Mahy remains a favourite. But one of the earlier ones I remember and loved was WHAT GOOD LUCK! WHAT BAD LUCK! by Remy Charlip – one of my Scholastic Lucky Book Club orders, I loved it so much - a true cliff-hanger of a book;
What good luck! 
Ned got a letter that said, 
"Please come to a surprise party." 
What bad luck! 
The party was in Florida and he was in New York. 
What good luck! 
A friend lent him an airplane. 
What bad luck! 
The motor exploded.

Each time the stakes getting higher for poor Ned, all before I knew what a cliff-hanger was!

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) - unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
Before THE NANCYS, I had cut my teeth on a first draft novella and two first draft film scripts. The first script was for a fantasy/adventure with a Viking and knight romance, and of course a curse. The second script was a horror set inside a reality-show house. Prior to those I had written a first draft of a novella which was police procedural set in South Otago (where THE NANCYS is set). It involved different characters and a different crime but in some ways was a precursor to THE NANCYS.

4. Outside of writing, touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
Hanging with my two teenage daughters, we watch TV shows and movies together – from Netflix Christmas romance movies through to disaster movies – last holidays we went through an “Animals Attack!” Phase – Cujo, The Birds, The Swarm etc, though now they are wanting to move to horror films which I am not ready for yet.

5. What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
In South Otago on a clear night - Drive into the countryside, turn off your vehicle and headlights, get out and stare up at the night sky. It is glorious.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Corey Stoll, or someone home grown like Charles Mesure - if the movie is set in a parallel universe where I have a full head of hair and have been a lifetime regular at the gym…

7. Of your writings, which is your favourite or particularly special, and why?
To date it would be THE NANCYS as it opened up a whole new world of publishing and a new wonderful community to me of writers, readers, reviewers and booksellers. It was also through writing THE NANCYS at Faber Writing Academy in Melbourne that I finally claimed the title of writer and took that leap of faith with my writing, in large part thanks to my incredible tutors Paddy O’Reilly and Toni Jordan.

8. What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf?
My celebrations to date have been considered by some as sad. A toasted ham and cheese sandwich, KFC, a cheeseburger... usually at home as well. I think the first time I saw THE NANCYS typeset on the page (in the 2016 Faber Academy Anthology) I sat in my car and nearly cried. Seeing your work in print for the first time is such an incredible feeling, and for me it was also for these characters, who had spent years in my head, finally having a home. To see them in print and to have a life outside of me, being read and enjoyed, is a thrill I don’t think I will ever grow accustomed to (and nor do I want to!).

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
To date I have been very lucky, I’ve only once encountered an interviewer who was totally convinced I was Uncle Pike from THE NANCYS even after I corrected him that I was not. So fingers crossed for the future - hopefully I haven’t jinxed myself!

Thank you Rob, we appreciate you chatting to Crime Watch. 

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